It’s an odd weekend for college football. There is an appetizer of a few rivalries coupled with a few odd-ball matchups that are more about getting a payday. For once, there’s no TV showing of Florida; it hosts show-me-the-money Florida International at 12:30 p.m. No. 2 Alabama hosts Chattanooga on WPCH at 12:21 p.m. and will hand over a fat check. There are, however, some games Saturday that matter.
No. 10 Ohio State (9-2) at Michigan (5-6), noon, ABC: Remember when this game used to be called “The Game”? Now it’s just another pothole in the Buckeyes’ road to the Rose Bowl. The Wolverines went to bowl games 33 consecutive years before hiring Rich Rodriguez and will miss the postseason for the second consecutive season if they lose.
Duke (5-5) at No. 20 Miami (7-3), noon, ESPNU: The Hurricanes want a strong finish and better bowl game, and you’d think with Duke and South Florida waiting that a 9-3 finish is within reach. But wait: Quarterback Jacory Harris has been wearing a soft, removable cast this week for a “finger” injury on his throwing hand. He says he’ll play but how effectively?
North Carolina (7-3) at Boston College (7-3), noon, ESPN: The drama here revolves around the Eagles trying to stay alive in the ACC Atlantic Division. A loss to the fast-closing Tar Heels will hand the division to Clemson, regardless of what the Tigers do against Virginia. A victory keeps the pressure on. North Carolina seeks victories over BC and rival North Carolina State to secure a Jan. 1 bowl berth. That’s something the Tar Heels have only done thrice in 58 years.
No. 4 TCU (10-0) at Wyoming (5-5), 2 p.m., no TV: The Horned Frogs visit Laramie, Wyo., for a game where the temperature will be in the 40s. Their offense should heat things up: They’ve won five games in a row by at least a 27-point margin. The Cowboys have lost twice to ranked teams at home this season -- 41-10 to Texas and 52-0 to Brigham Young.
No. 8 LSU (8-2) at Mississippi (7-3), 3:30 p.m. CBS: LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, injured against Alabama, is expected to take snaps in anger again after sitting out the Louisiana Tech victory last weekend. The Tigers fully expect to win out and remain among the elite programs in the country, even if they can’t beat the top two teams in their conference.
No. 14 Penn State (9-2) at Michigan State (6-5), 3:30 p.m., ESPN: Nittany Lions quarterback Daryll Clark had his best game last season against the Spartans and he’ll need a similar performance -- and on the road -- if Penn State is to remain a challenger for a BCS bowl game. The hopes are slim: A No. 14 ranking is the lowest a BCS team can have, so the Lions need a victory and a little help from some friends.
Virginia (3-7) at No. 23 Clemson (7-3), 3:30 p.m., ABC: The Tigers have averaged 42 points per game during a five-game win streak, and this will be an emotional final home game for seniors as they rub Howard’s Rock and run down the hill a final time. Yet much of the Clemson season that matters remains in front of the Tigers: A win today clinches their first ACC Atlantic Division title, a rivalry game awaits at South Carolina, a rematch with Georgia Tech lies ahead in the ACC title game in Tampa and a bowl visit will cap off Dabo Swinney’s first full season in Tigertown.
Vanderbilt (2-9) at Tennessee (5-5), 7 p.m., ESPNU: The Volunteers are 5-2 at Neyland Stadium and figure to add a victory to that total. Next Saturday, the regular-season finale is at Kentucky and will determine their bowl fate. With a top-5 recruiting class lining up, it would appear that Lane Kiffin will bring the Vols back from the brink of SEC extinction. You’d have to think that victories over Georgia, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, and a bowl win will put the Vols on track.
No. 25 California (7-3) at No. 17 Stanford (7-3), 7:30 p.m., Versus: The Cardinal has great aspirations after consecutive upsets of Oregon and USC. Two more victories, against Cal in the “Big Game” and then Notre Dame, will make Stanford the West Coast team no one wants to play in a bowl game. The late-season success also got the Stanford AD to step up with more discussion on a contract extension for coach Jim Harbaugh. It had been put off because of economic conditions, but the consecutive 50-point offensive outbursts have quickened the pace toward a new deal.
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